The Flowering Pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are blooming all over the city, especially in newer neighborhoods like mine. What’s not to love about a tree that has such beautiful white flowers in the early spring. Really, they bloom before the lilacs around here!
Everyone plants them, and in some neighborhoods, the developers even require that every homeowner plant them along the curb.
Truly, it is a beautiful sight to see a row of flowering pear trees blooming in the spring.
They can take your breath away.
But not in a good way.
They can take your breath away because the flowers don’t smell good.
Have you ever smelled the flowers? How would you describe that smell? It’s not exactly a stench, but it sure isn’t a fragrance. It is more like a smell.
It’s almost like the smell of something odd burning, but not quite that.
In some ways, the flowers smell like maybe you stepped in something that you wished you hadn’t stepped in. But that’s not quite right either.
Maybe it is more like someone is grilling out some kind of mystery meat? Yes, that’s what it smells like to me. Grilling mystery meat.
Admittedly, it’s not likely that the smell will make you physically sick, but it definitely isn’t a pleasant floral smell. It makes me wonder what kind of insects the tree is trying to attract to pollinate it.
Besides the smell, there are some other things that people should know before they plant flowering pear trees in their gardens.
First, varieties can vary quite a bit, so plant a named variety, and make sure it is a good one. Different varieties have different shapes.
My neighbor on one side has a flowering pear tree with a rounded shape.
I don’t know if you can tell in the picture, but they have also tried to stake it because it leans to one side. I notice a lot of the flowering pear trees leaning, so that must also be a fairly common problem with them.
My neighbor on the other side has a flowering pear with a nice cylinder shape.
This particular one is ‘Cleveland’. I helped the neighbor buy it, that’s how I know. I think it is a good variety.
Second, know before you plant that these trees are fast growers and so are generally weak wooded and likely to lose a limb or split in two if a big storm hits them the wrong way.
Third, don’t expect a flowering pear tree to last more than 25 years or so. It is not a tree that ages gracefully. I think most reputable nurseries will tell you this. If you plant one, just plan for its eventual replacement if you plan to stay with your current garden for that long.
But even knowing all this about the flowering pear trees, you still might want to plant one or two of them because they are beautiful blooming trees in the spring.
But also plant some hyacinths nearby. Why?
Because you’ll want to go take a big whiff of hyacinth blooms after you’ve smelled the flowering pear tree blooms, just to clear your nose and replace that bad smell with a good smell.